Afghanistan on verge of cricket's big time

Updated: 01 April 2009 12:09 IST

After just eight years of international competition, Afghanistan is among 12 teams playing in South Africa for a place in the 2011 World Cup.

Benoni (SA):

Afghanistan batsman Rais Ahmadzai was born, raised and learnt to play the wonderful game of cricket in a refugee camp in the Pakistani border town of Peshawar.

"We didn't know our country (then). We felt that Peshawar was our country," Ahmadzai said in an interview. Now, the 25-year-old who first saw Afghanistan seven years ago is proud to play for his homeland's national team.

And if most Afghans might find football more lively and wrestling more traditional, they're happy to embrace their winning cricket team.

After a series of surprise victories in qualifying tournaments in Jersey, Tanzania and Argentina, Ahmadzai and his teammates are on the verge of the cricket big time.

After just eight years of international competition, Afghanistan is among 12 teams playing in South Africa for a place in the 2011 World Cup.

The qualifying tournament will be played in South Africa from Wednesday until April 19.

"These 2 weeks are very important," Afghanistan bowler Hasti Gul said.

"We are standing at the door of international cricket," he added, miming a vigorous knock.

When Ahmadzai went to Afghanistan in 2002, he remembers feeling a mixture of freedom at finally leaving the cramped camp in Peshawar, and horror at the evidence of war all around - bombed out buildings, maimed men.

Topics : Cricket
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